Musings on a Short Winter

Musings on a Short Winter

I know, I know, it’s too early to call it. There will certainly be much more bad weather. But it seems to me that the chances for a severe Winter are past. We had our cold snap in December and since then this is the first day with real snow on the ground in 10 or so days, and it’s getting rained off right away. As the days get longer, the chances for consistent cold weather go down, and I doubt we have another period of long term snow on the ground.

The river is rising, but we’re unlikely to see a flood, there just isn’t the snow pack. They’re predicting it barely missing flood stage tomorrow. Fun to watch, glad there won’t be any damage, at least now. I’d be amazed if the river floods this year at this point, but it did dump snow in the mountains, if rain and warmth happen at the same time the Spring thaw can happen a lot of ways.

snowdrops coming up
First Snowdrops of 2018

While it may be premature call that it will be a mild winter, and I may be too eager for Spring, I know Spring is coming. And not just because Winter always holds a Spring, but because I can see my snowdrops coming up to meet the world. Sure, they do always come up when it’s still Winter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t signify that Spring will be soon to arrive.

So it appears unlike last Winter, the year of forever Winter and misery, we won’t be experiencing a long freeze, and we’ve already passed the period where the whole world is consistently dormant. I’ve seen the insects come out several times, the ones that will come out early. Despite my mistakes, I think my honeybees may make it, they’ve had a few opportunities to clean out the hive and are still showing some vigor, but their foodstocks could deplete at any time, I can hardly check now, for it would expose them to the cold. Beekeeping at this time is a practice of faith.

Honeybee hive cleanup
Warm weather allowed for corpse disposal.

My beloved compost pile has not had the Winter I would have hoped since I woke it up. During a dry spell in December I could not resist turning, having found hot, dry, blue spots within that seemed in clear need of mixing. The poor thing struggled to heat up again, and I failed my experiment at seeing how hot it could stay during the Winter and also denied myself the opportunity for a more dramatic photo. However, it was past peak heat (though still very hot) when I turned it. I don’t know if the precipitation finally coming and a snow blanket would have warmed it up more.

It did still warm up, but it hasn’t gotten burny again, though it has gotten close. It cools periodically from the rain, being uncovered, and has frozen on the outside many times. Still, the inside has mostly remained warm. I continue to be undecided on if it should be split or just turned when I get consistently warmer days, say several days above 40 with some sun. It is definitely big enough to be two piles, I think if I take off the outside and make a separate pile and then turn the inner pile I will have compost for Spring  planting. At least it didn’t straight die over the Winter like last year.

steaming pile of compost
My compost pile steaming in late Fall.

Today, in drizzly weather it’s throwing up light steam. It may not have made it back to being burny, but it’s cooked through the Winter, and if it dies it will only be briefly. There are some advantages to a pile freezing solid, at least once. Still, not like last year where I killed it for the whole long Winter, like a jackass. I’ve had to get better about not sticking my arm all the way in it to check heat and thus introducing cold, but it is so inspiring to feel the heat of nature in the Winter.

While I like Winter, I’m glad this one is being mild. I don’t have another harsh Winter in a row in me. It’s pruning season now, and I can make money again and be productive. I’m ready for the full garden season to start.

My Winter is supposed to be one of reading and reflection. I am failing so far. I have not done the blogging I would wish, and my reading has been slow. It is time to be productive in general, which is always a challenge.

I am struggling to decide how into Winter activities I even want to be, right now. I went ice-fishing once, after buying all the gear, but it was on a brutally cold day; I ought to go again, but I don’t know how long the ice will hold. And a big part of the appeal of ice fishing as that it would be the only decent opportunity to fish at all. But the weather has been unseasonably warm. I’m going to Wawawai on the Snake to test my new baitcaster on Sunday, if the weather is how it’s supposed to be. They say 45 and partially sunny, and the river is at a low elevation, I reckon since the insects will be out the whole food chain will be out, and the smallies will be swimming up to the shallows to bask in the sun. We’ll see, I’m dying to catch a fish, it’s been a while. Regardless, I need to practice with the baitcaster and some techniques.

But I’ll practically be fishing like it isn’t the Winter. Is it really that close to over?

Probably not, but I am ready for Spring already. Last year was crazy for me, after the brutal Winter of little work and heavy drinking I just never regained my footing last year. I have severe travel anxiety and had a wedding in New Orleans in June at the height of my busy season (which turned out to be the crucial early Summer vegetable gardening week as well), and then had a wedding in Portland 10 days later, and barely got any footing between those. Then the weather became persistently brutally hot, out of nowhere. All of 2017 was seemingly one struggle after another.

Suffice to say, I look forward to a better year. My vegetable garden beds are really maturing. I kept it simple with their over-Winter treatment. My hugelkultur beds are maturing, and the large one even has a minor steam vent that has kept a small part frost-free (the wood within the bed is composting), and the whole things should be good to plant this year. I have a few new heirloom bulbs I can enjoy, and it is only the second year my side yard garden has been planted, so it will be exciting to see everything come up (even more so than it is every Spring!) Besides around 100 new bulbs I planted in the Fall, I am excited to see the ones planted the year before. They are established and should be much larger, healthier, and more beautiful. Maybe for once we’ll get a year where a couple of days of hot weather doesn’t cut the bulb season short, to be followed by weeks of cool weather!

I think everything is going to come out beautiful in this new year, now it’s just a matter of getting through the tail end of this Winter until the glorious first days of Spring come.

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